Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Pamela A. Angelle

Committee Members

Gerald C. Ubben, Patricia Davis-Wiley, Kerry Robinson


While educational initiatives have used external consultants to effect change since the 1950s (Sulla, 1998), understanding their roles and their work has become increasingly important in helping low-performing schools facilitate change and guide the school improvement process (Brady, 2003; Mass Insight Education, 2012; Toppings, 2013). The purpose of this exploratory qualitative study is to identify and explore the roles Georgia’s school improvement specialists serve when working with principals of middle schools in Focus School status. The benefits and challenges of the school improvement specialists supporting principals with school improvement efforts are identified as well. This study will be framed in the work of Schein’s (1978, 1990, 1999) models of consultancy. The participants included 10 principals of middle schools in Focus School status and 10 school improvement specialists who work middle schools in Focus School status. Questionnaires, semi-structured, one-on-one interviews, and field notes provided appropriate data sources.

Findings from this study showed that school improvement specialists assist principals through required work and unofficial service. The benefits which surfaced are support for the principal and school, help with school improvement work, and having access to a consultant with expertise and experience. The challenges were related to people issues and aspects beyond their control. School improvement specialists served in roles themed as supporting and monitoring and included Schein’s three models of consultancy. Dynamics in regards to relationships, positional influence, and job requirements impacted the model of consultancy employed by the school improvement specialist. Based on the results of this research study, school improvement specialists served a multitude of roles in their work with principals of Focus Schools.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."